Merced County school locked down as precaution after report of armed teen in area

A Merced County Sheriff's Office patrol car on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.
A Merced County Sheriff's Office patrol car on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

Several reports of a teenager with a rifle locked down a Santa Nella elementary school on Friday, according to the Merced County sheriff.

The first report came in just before 8 a.m. that a teen with a rifle was seen near the Santa Nella trailer park on Highway 33, according to Sheriff Vern Warnke. Another report said he was near a church, he said.

"All accounts lead back to a teenager in the area target shooting with a BB Gun," he said.

Romero Elementary School was briefly placed on lockdown, he said, and students were never in any danger.

Everything was cleared up by 9:15 a.m., according to the sheriff.

School districts in Merced County are on heightened awareness for active shooter events after authorities said Nikolas Cruz, a 17-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 people Wednesday at the school with an AR-15 rifle.

"When we see these tragedies, which are happening more and more, we have a responsibility to learn from each of them," Merced Union HIgh School District Superintendent Alan Peterson said in a newsletter released Friday.

Peterson urged the district community to be vigilant and report any concerns to school officials. He also said it was important to continue "surprise" lockdown drills the district started two years ago.

"Creating a culture of safety and security for students and staff must be a non negotiable for all of us," Peterson said, noting that the district's social emotional services available on all its campuses "will only get stronger next year."